4 spices that may boost your health

They do more than just deliver flavor—these seasonings could also help your body ward off disease

Published: March 24, 2014 09:30 AM

Spice up your morning coffee with cinnamon.

There’s evidence that some herbs and spices do more than add flavor. In a small 2010 study, adults who ate a hamburger flavored with eight seasonings that have antioxidant properties, including garlic and paprika, had fewer free radicals—unstable molecules that may contribute to various diseases—in their urine than adults who ate a burger seasoned with salt. Though much research is still under way, here’s what’s known about four popular seasonings.

While you can find some or all of these seasonings in pill form, research suggests that it's better to consume them in food. Whip up a spicy Mexican or Caribbean recipe that includes chili pepper; sprinkle cinnamon into oatmeal or coffee; use sage to season a simple pasta dish; or order an Indian curry to get a dose of turmeric. Another benefit of these and other spices? They add flavor without sodium or calories.

—Jamie Kopf

Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili pepper its heat, may boost metabolism, increasing our ability to burn calories. It may also help suppress appetite.

A daily half-teaspoon may help control blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a review of studies published in 2013.

Some evidence suggests that this herb may improve cognitive performance in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and boost memory in young adults, too.

Research suggests that curcumin, a substance that gives turmeric its yellow color, may ease osteoarthritis symptoms and slow the proliferation of certain cancer cells.

Editor's Note:

This article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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